At Broadcom Software, we understand that for CISOs looking for global cyber security standards to support them in their work, recent years may have often felt like an uphill struggle. Our industry’s ‘Tower of Babel’ problem of an abundance of overlapping, uncoordinated, and competing definitions and standards has got worse rather than better. This has tended to make CISOs value their own choice of global, regional or national standards for addressing isolated aspects of the challenges they face. However it has also left them skeptical of the value of global standards for shaping their broader strategic thinking.
Harmonization has become even harder with the intensification of geopolitical competition around key technology standards. China set a new bar with its “China Standards 2035” plan, aspects of which many western countries fear risk fragmenting the Internet. The EU’s Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton, stated in February: “We were too naive. We were open by default in the belief that things would go our way. But we can’t be open at any price.”
At Broadcom Software, we understand that for CISOs looking for global cyber security standards to support them in their work, recent years may have often felt like an uphill struggle.
Despite these challenges, I am actually more optimistic about the outlook for improving cyber security through global standards than I have been for some years. As Vice Chairman of a standardisation group, it is incumbent on me to seek a high level of participation from all countries. One reason that I am optimistic is that I am seeing Western countries responding positively to this competitive stimulus. For example, the U.S. is increasing its level of engagement in the form of the candidacy of Doreen Bogdan Martin (U.S.) to succeed the current Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Houlin Zhao (China). Bogdan Martin is running against the rival candidacy of Rashid Ismailov (Russia) with the vote taking place at the ITU Plenipotentiary in September.
In case you’re not aware, the ITU is a specialized agency of the United Nations. Within the ITU, the Study Group 17 (SG17) covers all of its security standards work. Among other things, SG17 is responsible for ITU-T X.509, a cornerstone in designing applications relating to public key infrastructure (PKI). This is the underlying platform that enables encryption services world-wide.
The other reason I’m optimistic is the instructions given to SG17 by Resolution 50 of the World Telecommunications Standardization Assembly (WTSA-20) that was held in Geneva in March. Resolution 50 has real potential to help declutter the ‘Tower of Babel’ challenges of cyber security, connect the dots across the many silos of security standards, and enable enterprise CISOs to better execute on a secure cloud and digital transformation journey for their organizations.
Here's an abbreviated version of what the new Resolution 50, Instructions 5 and 6 mandate and why I think they can be a game-changer for cyber security:
- Instruction 5: “to define a general/common set of security capabilities for each phase of information systems/networks/applications lifecycle, so that consequently security by design could be achieved for systems/networks/applications from day one.”
- Instruction 6: “to design security architecture reference framework(s) with security functional components which could be considered as the basis of security architecture design for various systems/networks/applications in order to improve the quality of recommendations on security.”
This alignment of these two areas of security architecture standardization within the ITU – with its strong convening power across governments, the private sector, academia, civil society, technologists and regulators – is unprecedented in the modern era. It will also help coordination and collaboration with other standard bodies such as ISO and IEC, OASIS, ETSI, IETF, etc.
This work is directly relevant to enterprise CISOs. As a discipline, cyber security has always been – and still is – heavily focused on post-production cyber security operations. As we increasingly seek greater emphasis on security by design– as we ‘shift left’ in devops – the work of SG17 is providing the CISO with a new way of thinking about security transformation.
Merely recognising that SG17’s work could become relevant if vendors ever end up supporting the specs that arise might be a common way of thinking about standards. But it’s outdated in relation to this type of architecture-level standards work.
At Broadcom Software, we are more optimistic about global standards in cyber security than we have been for a long time.
For example, we already know from today’s XDR world just how limiting such a narrow focus on product rather than architecture level specifications can be. XDR products are marketed as capable of much more than the real world of interoperability in orchestration and automation actually allows them to deliver. Many XDR products are certainly very good at automated detection based on the vendor’s own signals. But very few CISOs are automating the ‘R’ of response today because the broader framework of supporting standards for automating across the IT estate is lacking and doesn’t really allow detection based on third party signals.
By starting out with a ‘big picture’ standardization mandate, SG17’s work is enabling CISOs and their teams to start thinking more strategically across their business now - and then evolve the strategy iteratively over time.
Without vendor-agnostic frameworks defining real world security orchestration and automation - and mapping them to how your own organization can actually use them - how can you arrive at the optimal balance between new investment in machine automation and new investment in the right kinds of skilled people?
At Broadcom Software, we are more optimistic about global standards in cyber security than we have been for a long time. Watch for more about how the work of SG17 is helping CISOs drive improvements in enterprise security in the coming months, and to learn more about how Broadcom Software can help you modernize, optimize and protect your enterprise – contact us here.
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